Monthly Archives: April 2017

The fashion industry launched its new collection, Born Free and HIV Initiative

A Celine tote for $220? A Carolina Herrera shirt dress for $255? And shopping for a good cause too?

No, you’re not dreaming.

The items are available to buy at as part of a new capsule collection launched to support the private-sector-led charity initiative Born Free Africa, with the goal of ending mother-to-child HIV transmission by Dec. 31, 2015.

Kenya-born, Brooklyn-based contemporary artistWangechi Mutu collaborated with 22 fashion designers on the Born Free collection, including J. Crew’s Jenna Lyons, Miuccia Prada, Tory Burch and Isabel Marant. Items include drawstring pants, ladylike skirts, peasant blouses and scarves for women and children. Most items are priced less than $250, and all proceeds from sales benefit the organization.

The capsule is part of a series of fashion industry-led actions rolling out this spring to help highlight the global effort to achieve a generation free of HIV.

An article about the effort in the May issue of Vogue features photos by Annie Leibovitz following Victoria Beckham and model-designer-advocate Liya Kebede as they visit South Africa to learn about the work being done there to end mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

Vogue publisher Conde Nast has pledged to donate 100% of new subscription proceeds across all its brands, purchased through a Born Free promotion running in print issues and on websites. And the MAC AIDS Fund has pledged to match all purchases and donations to Born Free up to $500,000.

Beginning this month, Born Free is also releasing an advertising campaign, shot by Patrick Demarchelier, and appearing in Conde Nast magazines as well as outdoor media space. The campaign features models with their children, all wearing the Born Free collection. And on Mother’s Day, there will be a kickoff event in New York City featuring a number of participating collaborators and designers.

The fashion industry boycotted the Dorchester collection hotel

Is this the end of designer dinners at the Hotel Bel-Air and charity fashion shows at the Beverly Hills Hotel?

If high-profile members of the fashion community have their way, maybe.

Several vocal personalities, including Decades boutique co-owner Cameron Silver and designers Brian Atwood and Peter Som have taken to social media to call for a boycott of the Beverly Hills Hotel and a host of other high-end Dorchester Collection properties around the globe with ties to the sultanate of Brunei. (The Dorchester Collection is owned by the Brunei Investment Agency, an arm of the Brunei government that manages the oil-rich country’s luxury hotels in Europe and the U.S.)

Silver told the Los Angeles Times that the boycott was in response to a recent law taking effect this month that increases the punishment for committing a homosexual act from a 10-year prison sentence to death by stoning.

“The fashion industry and its supporters are unified in boycotting these properties,” Silver said Tuesday afternoon, “Brian Atwood, Bryan Boy, Valentino, etc. … all have taken to our social media.”

Silver said the free-form protest started to gather steam Sunday night. “There was no sort of unified group, everyone was just sort of paying attention to it. Someone mentioned it to me while I was in New York on Sunday, I looked up an article [about the new law] and then posted something. [Valentino PR Director] Carlos Souza reposted it and then it was reposted by [Valentino’s longtime business partner] Giancarlo [Giammetti] and it just sort of grew from there.”

Most Instagram and Twitter mentions on the subject lead back to shoe designer Atwood’s Instagram post of April 21 that reads as follows:

“Don’t stay at the Principe di Savoia, Le Meurice, or the Dorchester during Milan, Paris or London fashion week’s [sic] this June to October.

Send a clear signal to their owner, The Sultan of Brunei, that stoning people to death for being gay in Brunei is not acceptable.

His new law comes into effect tomorrow April 22. Why not cancel your bookings tomorrow?”

Atwood did not immediately return an email seeking comment on the call to boycott.

Silver said he hoped the action would raise awareness. “I doubt it will have enough clout to change this Draconian law in Brunei,” he said. “But I think that it just makes us more aware of where we’re spending our money – it makes me very conscious of who owns what. I knew nothing about it – I knew [the Sultan] owned the Dorchester Properties but wasn’t aware that the new law was being implemented. And these are a lot of very fashiony properties. If tastemakers stop going to those properties, that’s [the kind of thing] that does make a difference.”

Silver added that the boycott of the Beverly Hills Hotel, which has hosted fashion events for the Yves Saint Laurent brand and the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute among others, resonated with him on several levels. “I’m sure there’s an issue with practically anything we spend money on,” he acknowledged, “But this is a very public thing – and it’s the hotel  that I grew up at so it’s a little more sensitive [for me]. I live down the block – it’s like my backyard.”

In a request for comment on the boycott, the hotel emailed the following statement attributed to Leslie Lefkowitz, a public relations consultant for the Beverly Hills Hotel and Hotel Bel-Air: “We continue to abide by the laws of the countries we operate in and do not tolerate any form of discrimination of any kind. The laws that exist in other countries outside of where Dorchester Collection operates do not affect the policies that govern how we run our hotels. Dorchester Collection’s Code, endorsed by the company’s ownership, emphasizes equality, respect and integrity in all areas of our operation, and strongly values people and cultural diversity amongst our guests and employees.”

In addition to those two properties, the other properties in the Dorchester Collection portfolio include the Principe de Savoia in Milan and the Meurice in Paris, both of which are fashion industry favorites during the biannual fashion weeks.

The hotel group also bestows a fashion prize of its own. Established in 2010, the annual Dorchester Collection Fashion Prize was created, according to its website, “to discover emerging fashion talent and build on Dorchester Collection’s own established fashion heritage.” Touted as “the first award of its kind developed by a luxury hotel company,” the 2013 winner of the prize was designer Huishan Zhang.

Esther Williams Offers Swimsuits to Lure Mature Women Back in the Water

It happens every spring. The weather warms up. The clothing racks begin to bloom with swimsuits and thoughts turn to that depressing chore: choosing what to wear in the water.

Mature women often find slim pickings. The tops are low-cut, the bottoms are high-cut and a hankie would hide more than some of the suits. Little strings tied together are designed more for perfect bodies in repose than older women who want to go swimming.

Faced with such skimpy choices, some women just stayed out of the water.

Now, the legendary queen of chlorine, Esther Williams, is hoping to nudge these women back into the pool with her new swimsuit line, called the Esther Williams Collection for Misty Swimwear (a division of Los Angeles-based Excelsior Inc.). The collection is available in the county at The Broadway, Bullock’s and May Co.

Unveiled locally at a recent fashion show at Crystal Court’s Broadway, the collection of 96 one- and two-piece suits (ranging in price from $38 to $66) includes some modern full-cut designs and some “retro” (i.e., old-fashioned) looks with shirred midriffs, halter tops and high waists–the kind of styles that kept Williams slick in such aquatic musicals as “Dangerous When Wet” and “Neptune’s Daughter.”

“Women don’t have to be hanging out of their suits like their daughters anymore,” Williams said at The Broadway show. “I’ve been working over a year with Misty on these suits. We went over my scrapbooks and discussed what worked for me and what worked when it was wet.”

Trim and glowing in a royal blue jacket, red blouse and white skirt, Williams told the women watching the slim models that the suits were designed for women of all ages and sizes, as much for the imperfect as the perfect.

“I understand your bodies,” said the veteran of 26 MGM pictures. “I know what will stay put. I know what swimming has done for my life, and I want it to be the same for you. I want you to go in the water.”

Williams, 65, said the two keys to proper fit and structure of her suits are their Lycra fabric and fuller cuts. The suits she wore in her musicals were made of Lycra, and they never inched up or down when they weren’t supposed to, she said. And the fuller cuts are reminiscent of Williams’ bathing beauty movies.

“It was important to me that the styles were wearable for all women,” Williams said. “Not every woman is running to a plastic surgeon or exercising in a gym three times a day.

“We’re working on big bosoms and big hips, for all your problem areas,” she told the women before the show.

“I know you’re going to look at these skinny models and say, ‘Oh, no!’ but remember, (the swimsuits) come in all sizes.”

The collection includes bottoms that can be pulled up to the waist or lowered down to bikini size. Most suits are cut high under the arms to prevent “spillage,” the legs are cut lower to cover up the hips. Many of the one-piece suits have shirring around the midriff or draping across the bodice, which serves as a flattering camouflage for figure flaws.

Williams said she was persuaded to design the line after Irwin Greenblatt, president of Excelsior, conducted a survey and found that the majority of the respondents both remembered her from her movies and wanted more conservative swimsuits.

John Rogoff, senior vice president of Excelsior, said his company surveyed women ages 17 to 65 on their preferences in swimwear. Eighty-eight percent said they prefer one-piece swimsuits with a V-neck and regular-cut legs (cut straight across the leg rather than cut high toward waist) with bra lining and support. The majority also said they prefer suits in solid colors rather than prints.

At the same time, Rogoff said, his company is finding that “more and more women in the 35-to-45 age range are beginning to wear two-piece suits again, as long as there is adequate coverage.”

“They are looking for a conservative suit with some style,” he added. “We have found in our retail sales that a two-piece suit with coverage in the rear and on the sides accounts for 25% of the sales.”

Department store buyers seem to finding the same thing. According to Nordstrom Orange County swimwear buyer Katie Waites, the biggest sellers for young shoppers are the Brazilian- and French-cut suits, which reveal most of the derriere and hip. Older Nordstrom shoppers, however, are flocking to fuller cuts in brighter colors than last year.

Two-piece suits with bottoms that can be raised or lowered were introduced 2 years ago by a small number of swimsuit manufacturers, Waites said. That design and styles with shirring or draping are both extremely popular this year with older buyers, she added.

“This indicates they are looking for a more stylish suit with coverage,” she said.

The trend toward more coverage is consumer evidence that the population is aging, according to the president of Swimwear Industry Manufacturers, a Los Angeles-based trade group.

Less Glitz Ballroom Costumes and Better Fits

In the rarefied, regimented world of ballroom dancing, an incident in 1982 proved nothing short of a fashion coup: During an international competition, half a dozen of the world’s reigning ballroom dancers–queens of the floor–threw down their tutus.

For decades they’d been consigned to wear short skirts with layer upon layer of netting that made them look as if they had stick legs and huge hips. They’d had enough. So the world’s top dancers banded together and showed up for the final round of the British Open in the long, fluid gowns that have become the ballroom standard.

“Overnight they all started wearing Ginger Rogers dresses. Within a matter of months, no one wore the net styles,” says Elizabeth Knoll, a national champion ballroom dancer who teaches at the Imperial Academy in Buena Park.

Like Knoll, today’s ballroom dancers owe a debt of gratitude to the revolutionaries who made ballroom dance costumes more palatable.

Those who have seriously taken up the fox trot, waltz and other moves must also master the strict dress code of ballroom dancing, but they no longer look like extras in Swan Lake. Gowns for women have become infinitely more flattering, while would-be Fred Astaires have toned down the glitz in favor of understated elegance.

For Knoll and her partner, Dennis Lyle, a Fred Astaire National Champion ballroom dancer and owner of the Imperial Academy, the art of the dance has as much to do with the costumes as choreography.

“Costuming is very important,” Knoll says, “if for no other reason than to boost your psyche. Even though what we do is athletic, it’s also cosmetic. Judges certainly take into account the look of the couple.”

Ballroom costumes may look like elegant evening wear, but they’re designed with athletic endurance in mind.

“We have to move in them,” Knoll says.

International ballroom dancing–the competitive style that audiences watch on PBS specials in which partners remain in each other’s arms throughout the performance–calls for gowns that complement the frame and posture.

The trend today is full-skirted dresses that hit midcalf to the ankle, reinforced with boning or fish line in the hems for added volume. Feathers are optional and fall in and out of favor. Knoll senses a comeback and has ordered her next gown with a feathery hem.

One of Knoll’s gowns has a teal crepe-back satin skirt over a layer of lavender organza, and a purple lace bodice studded with Austrian crystals.

“It’s very streamlined and fitted. There’s no froufrou,” she says.

Men once matched their partners in glitz. They would wear a unitard with “ruffles and rhinestones all over,” Lyle says.

Now they wear traditional tail suits–tuxedos with modifications. Their tuxedo shirts are worn with detachable collars made of plastic that rise high on the neck, which makes for a crisp, elegant line but also an uncomfortable fit.

“They don’t wilt when you sweat,” Lyle says. Trousers have high waists to elongate the legs. The jackets are specially cut so the shoulders don’t bunch up, and the sleeves lie flat when the arms are holding their partners.

Lyle, whom Knoll jokingly calls “Mr. Sartorial Spendor,” has his tails made by a tailor in Los Angeles for about $1,400.

“They wear studs, cuff links, the works,” Knoll says. “The men look great. I think that’s why I got into ballroom dancing.”

For American-style ballroom dancing, which calls for more athletic maneuvers, guys can ditch the jacket and wear a vest for greater movement. Women wear longer gowns with extra-full skirts that can be raised high above their heads, with folds of fabric to spare.

“They’re designed for when we do dips, drops and little swoopy things,” Knoll says.

She has a royal blue polyester backless number with a black velvet collar and large rhinestone buttons. The dress has a slit up the center for showing some leg during high kicks.

Dresses for Latin-style dances “tend to have a lot less material,” she says.

Dancers want to show off their backs, legs and hips. Skirts can be short and tight, and slit into panels. Knoll considers her dresses conservative; one style features an asymmetrical skirt and comes in a form-fitting black stretch velvet.

Men wear fitted black pants with everything from muscle T-shirts to tailored shirts, which many guys like to wear unbuttoned.

“They’re a lot less gaudy than they used to be,” Lyle says.

Costumes are made to withstand the rigors of the dance, but most competitors have stories of zippers popping, heels catching in hems and straps snapping.

One of Knoll’s worst fashion mishaps took place in 1991, when she was U.S. champion representing the United States at a world competition in Berlin. Her lace bodice caught on the button of her partner’s tailcoat, and she spun to the floor still hooked to his jacket.

“I was hanging on by a piece of lace,” she says. She tried to fix the snag with nail polish during a break in the routine, and unwittingly spilled the polish all over her dress.